Cebuano forward Leonard “Santi” Santillan has been named to the Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 team that will compete in the 2021 FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, Austria on Wednesday night.
The pride of Lapu-Lapu City, the 6-foot-5 Santillan beat out good friend Alvin Pasaol for the fourth spot. He will join top-ranked player Joshua Munzon as well as Southeast Asian games gold medal winners CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa as they bid for a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.
Pasaol is a 3x3 veteran who has competed in plenty of international competitions. However, he missed the first half of the Gilas’ training camp at the Inspire Sports Academy because of “health and safety” protocols.
Meanwhile, Santillan is a University of the Visayas product who is no stranger to national team duties. He was once a member of the Gilas Youth squad that played in the FIBA Asia Under-18 championship. He is also an experienced 3x3 competitor, having played in three Masters tournaments and in one Challenger.
Santillan’s length and savvy will be much-needed assets as the Gilas try to power through despite the huge height and experience disparity. While Munzon has already cut his teeth in numerous 3x3 tournaments, both here in the Philippines and abroad, Perez and Tautuaa only began playing organized 3x3 basketball in the SEA Games back in 2019.
Only two teams from each group will move on to the winner-take-all playoffs on Sunday. Only three teams will nab tickets to the Tokyo Olympics. (JNP)